100 days – Day 95: Edinburgh
fed up with all things Glasgow, during the heavy emphasis during the Commonwealth Games? Then, come to Edinburgh instead! Better to eat first, as you may well be greeted with that infamous welcome, “you’ll have had your tea” (see below)
some interesting and strange facts about our Capital City:
- There’s a small part of Nova Scotia deemed to be within Edinburgh Castle Esplanade. To encourage settlement in New Scotland, James VI created 100 new baronets of Nova Scotia in 1624. To enable the new baronets to be installed without travelling across the Atlantic, it was decided to allow part of the Castle Esplanade to double up as Nova Scotia.
- Princes Street should really be St Giles’ Street. However George III thought that sounded too similar to a London slum area of the time. Instead it was named after the Royal Princes, the Duke of Rothesay and the Duke of York.
- In 1530, the city boasted almost 300 alewives or brewers
- And in 1775 the city saw the publication of Ranger’s Impartial List of Ladies of Pleasure in Edinburgh – a prostitutes directory.
- In 1777 there were eight legal distilleries in Edinburgh. And 400 illegal ones.
- The Royal Mile is, in fact, just over a mile long and consists of five streets.
- Rose Street’s name is associated with prostitution – to “pluck a rose” was a common expression for visiting a lady of the night.
- Saughton Park was once home to a tribe of 70 French Senegal natives who lived in bee-hive mud huts. The Senegalese village was created as part of the 1908 Scottish National Exhibition, which included a display on sewage disposal and another on new fangled electricity
- St Andrews claims to be the home of golf, but the rules of golf were first compiled on the Links of Leith and golf is documented as being played on Musselburgh Links in 1672, making it officially the oldest golf course in the world
- Miles away from the battlefields of the Somme, First World War tanks were churning up the grass at Redbraes Park near Broughton Road in 1917. Brown Brothers engineering works at Broughton Road carried out the first trials of prototype Mark VII tanks there.
- Blame nobleman Mackintosh of Borlum for the expression “You’ll have had your tea”. He complained in 1729 that people slurped their tea and would instead insist he’d had his already and have beer to drink instead.
- Naughty Edinburgh minister Rev John McQueen caused outrage in the 1600s. He became so besotted by local beauty Mrs Euphame Scott that he pinched her underwear from a washing line and made a waistcoat and drawers from them.
- Long before rocker Ozzy Osbourne shocked the world by biting the head off a bat, 19th-century showman Ned Holt was thrilling crowds at the Grassmarket by killing rats with his teeth.
- Sex therapists sound like a modern phenomenon. But in mid-18th century Cowgate-born Dr James Graham’s Temple of Health was charging couples £50 a night to cure their sexual woes by way of an aromatic mattress, some powerful magnets and a jolt of electricity. His 12-foot-wide tilting bed was said to help cure impotency and aid concep
- The first man to fly in Britain, James Tytler, did it in a hot air balloon he built himself in August 1784. Tytler suffered the humiliation of crashing several times before finally rising a few feet off the ground. His next attempt took him 350 feet into the air for half a mile. But his final attempt the next year flopped when the balloon refused to launch until after Tytler had left the basket, at which point it sailed high into the sky, thus inspiring the popular put-down: You’re a balloon.
- Indian Peter is among Edinburgh’s most bizarre characters. Kidnapped as a child, he was sold into American slavery then kidnapped again by Native Americans. He returned to Edinburgh to publish the city’s first “A–Z”-style roads directory and launch the city’s penny post.
Everyone knows we gave the world anaesthesia courtesy of James Young Simpson, telephones thanks to Alexander Graham Bell and logarithms thanks to John Napier. But what else can we brag about?
1. Edinburgh was the first city in the world to have its own fire brigade. Firemaster Wilkin also designed the UK’s first fire engine that combined engine, hose and escape ladder.
2. Gentlemen with receding locks can today invest in many kinds of remedies, but in 17th-century Edinburgh one of the top cures for baldness was application of the burnt ashes of dove’s dung.
3 Edinburgh can also be credited – dubiously perhaps – with bringing the “f” word into publication when in 1503 poet William Dunbar’s classic Ane Brash of Wowing was published in the city, which included the first printed use of the word.
4 And finally, if all that has left you in need of a toilet break, give thanks not to the man credited with bringing us toilets, Thomas Crapper. He simply manufactured them. It was Alexander Cummings, a watchmaker from East Lothian who invented the modern flushing toilet in 1775.